Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia met with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski this past Monday at a roundtable discussion about the state's broadband future.
The meeting, which brought together community members and area leaders, addressed the need for greater broadband proliferation in expanding West Virginia's access to online business, education, health care, and emergency services.
Increasingly left behind in the push to broadband universality, West Virginia's struggle represents the challenge of bridging the digital divide. For Senator Rockefeller, getting his state connected is nothing less than securing the future of West Virginia:
More important than roads, more important than water, more important than everything, we have them now, and so this broadband issue and wireless issue is the future of West Virginia and we've got all these mountains make things harder even though they're beautiful, they get in the way of everything.
Getting the state connected has been a difficult task. West Virginia's topography and rural population make it difficult for broadband providers to build the necessary infrastructure. Even when connections are made, the cost to consumers is often prohibitively high.
Government subsidies for broadband, in the form of programs like E-Rate, have connected many schools and libraries in the state, but much of the population is still left behind. In areas like Jackson Country, only 51% of households have the option of broadband. Residents hope that federal funding can eventually help these numbers grow and get more families connected.